Federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh announced last week that they will begin seeking the revocation of gun permits for airline passengers carrying a firearm to the security checkpoint at Pittsburgh International Airport.
In addition to Transportation Security Administration fines of up to $13,000, acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania Stephen Kaufman said prosecutors would begin sending letters to county sheriffs asking them to revoke concealed carry permits. In Pennsylvania, county sheriffs are the issuing authority for the permits.
The Allegheny County Sheriff has already agreed, Kaufman said.
Passengers say they “forgot that the firearm is in their bag,” Kaufman said at a press conference on Wednesday. “We consider that negligence; we consider that to not be responsible gun ownership, and therefore the sheriff is willing to revoke their concealed carry permit.”
TSA agents have reported 27 cases this year of passengers bringing a firearm to the checkpoint at PIT. It’s a number the agency says is getting close to setting a record high. Even after last week’s press conference, TSA found another two guns at the checkpoint in the following days.
“We often hear, ‘I forgot that the firearm was in my bag,’ or ‘I did not know it was in my bag,’ are the two most common responses,” said Inspector Ken Ruckel, division commander of the Allegheny County Police Department at PIT. “It’s not acceptable.”
When a firearm is found at the TSA security checkpoint, it has a dramatic impact on airport operations.
“That immediately stops the screening process altogether, so everyone in that line waiting to get through for their flights, they all get stopped, and when that happens that slows down the entire operation,” said Travis McNichols, Senior Vice President of Public Safety, Operations and Maintenance at PIT.
Once a firearm has been found, an ACPD officer immediately secures and seizes the weapon. Ruckel said police then check if there are outstanding warrants for the person and ensure the gun is registered to them.
Police hold the firearm until a determination is made regarding federal charges.
“TSA will definitely continue with its citation, and it’s an expensive mistake to make,” said Lisa Farbstein. spokesperson for TSA. “Mark my word, you’re going to see a fine show up in the mail.”
Fines range anywhere from $3,000 to $13,000.
How to properly transport firearms
TSA, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, ACPD and PIT ask travelers to triple-, even quadruple-check their bags before coming to the airport.
TSA has clear-cut instructions on how passengers can properly pack a firearm. First, it has to be unloaded and packed in a locked hard-sided case.
“You take it to your airline check-in counter and declare you want to fly with it, and then make sure it goes in the belly of the plane. That’s the safe way to transport your firearm,” said Farbstein.